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I realise that I am no longer able to disable javascript from the preference setting of FireFox browser 27.0. As a developer, I always think about graceful degradation for my users. And I know how to disable it by accessing the dragon settings.

It seems, I no longer have to worry about this graceful degradation issue in the future if all browsers start to disable this feature. Some arguments suggest that many people disable javascript so that it would enhance security for the user. Then there are also people arguing that disabling javascript would reduce usability.

Is there any consensus on whether this option to disable javascript should be scrapped?

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    HTML and CSS alone are not enough to get the job done in a way that society expects us to, anymore. We need JavaScript. And we need all major browsers to abolish the "disable JavaScript" option, and instead, find better ways to make things secure. – uSeRnAmEhAhAhAhAhA Mar 29 '14 at 12:35
  • Likely a discussion-provoking question. – Deer Hunter Mar 30 '14 at 6:12
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It's bad UX to take settings away from people that need them.

It's good UX to hide the complexities of software that most people have no need to deal with.

I think Firefox's decision is simply a balance of that. They've (making an assumption here) come to the conclusion that most of the internet requires JavaScript to make it enjoyable and usable, so few people will ever need to shut it off, so took it off the list of options. Yet with the plug-in 'ecosystem' anyone that want's to add their own feature to Firefox certainly can (including turning off JS).

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This article gives a good overview of the subject. The author's main point is that the vast majority of web users don't really understand the role of Javascript or its risks, so disabling it is unlikely to be based on an informed decision. Furthermore, it is a necessary technology for many, many sites to operate properly and there is little reason to disable it.

I agree with this. I don't know a single knowledgeable computer user who disables Javascript. It doesn't make sense to offer an option that has very little benefit and has detrimental side effects. The only outcome will be that people who don't know what they are doing will accidentally mess things up.

Note that FireFox hasn't taken away the option completely, just removed it from the user interface. You can still change this setting manually in the configuration, and extensions have been created to make enabling/disabling more accessible for those who really think they need it.

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    The people at noscript.net will most likely be happy to explain why under circumstances you seem to never encounter it is not only sensible but a best practice to not allow scripts to run in your browser or only ones from manually approved sources. The UX is affected, yes, and vastly so sometimes. But: "Safety first!". ;-) – TheUser1024 Mar 29 '14 at 8:56
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    And here are some knowledgeable computer experts who seem to use that dedicated script blocker: security.stackexchange.com/questions/4983/… – TheUser1024 Mar 29 '14 at 9:03
  • It may be a matter of principle for some to disable the black magic of Google Analytics. – Deer Hunter Mar 30 '14 at 6:14
  • @TheUser1024 and that's why the plugin exists. Those that really want it, can get to it. But the vast majority of web users don't know or care. – DA01 Mar 30 '14 at 18:19
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I think it makes sense to remove this option from the default GUI. And I also think that this removal won’t noticeable change the number of users that disable JS.

It doesn’t remove the possibility to disable JavaScript, it just removes one of three ways how to accomplish this:

  • Graphical default menu (removed)
  • Textual menu about:config (still possible)
  • add-ons (still possible)

JavaScript support is not some kind of setting that users decide to disable while browsing the configuration options. Users that want to disable JavaScript will (still) do it.

I think it’s safe to assume that there are three major motiviations why to disable JS:

  • (1) Security/Privacy: Users want to whitelist/blacklist specific JavaScript.
  • (2) Security: Admins decide that all JavaScript should be disabled all the time.
  • (3) Web developers: Users want to quickly enable/disable JavaScript for testing.

Users from case 1 and 3 are probably using relevant add-ons anyway (which offer a quick way to change/configure the setting) as it would be really cumbersome to go to the settings menu every time.
Users from case 2 probably won’t allow to let their users change the setting in the first place.


See also Alex Limi’s (formerly head of Firefox UX) blog post:
Checkboxes that kill your product

And one of probably many discussions about this removal:
Removal of "Enable JavaScript" and "Load images automatically" in Firefox 23

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